Stevenage 1-0 Notts County: Daily Mirror match report
Published 21:07 29/01/12 By James Masters
Luke Freeman has vowed to make Arsene Wenger pay for his lack of faith by writing his name further into FA Cup folklore.
The talented teenager remains the youngest player to ever feature in an FA Cup tie after making his debut as a 15-year-old when Gillingham lost at Barnet in November 2007.
Arsenal boss Wenger splashed out £200,000 on him just a few months later, but despite four years in north London the midfielder never got the chance to shine.
Freeman was the star of the show as Stevenage booked their place in the Fifth Round after Damion Stewart’s own-goal gifted Borough victory. Now 19, he’s determined to use his side’s cup run as the perfect platform to prove Arsenal were wrong to cast him adrift.
“I do feel I have a point to prove,” he said. “I feel there is a lot in me still that didn’t come out at Arsenal and the best way to prove that is by playing games.
“I’m not too sure why it didn’t work out there, it’s how things happen in football. What works against you might help you out in the future. To be only 19 and playing regular first-team football is a good thing for me.
“I learned loads at Arsenal. They develop you technically so I can’t thank Arsenal enough for what they have done for me.
“I didn’t get much feedback from Arsene Wenger though. It is more difficult for English talent to come through at Arsenal at times. They have their favourites and stick with them, but they do bring through quite a few young English lads so you can’t complain.
“The competition there is stiff as they are one of the biggest teams in the world.”
Stevenage have lost just once in their past 19 games and with new boss Gary Smith in charge, they rarely looked like fluffing their lines against County.
Freeman created the only goal of the game after 12 minutes, firing the ball into the area where the unfortunate Stewart managed to deflect the ball into his own net from 10-yards.
Borough wasted several chances to extend their lead with Darius Charles hitting the post and heading inches over, while Lawrie Wilson was guilty of two glaring misses.
County were second best for much of the game but did improve after the break with Chris Day on hand to deny Lee Hughes and Alan Judge.
The result was the perfect end to the week for Smith, who only moved back to the UK last week following a spell in Major League Soccer.
But he’s wasting little time and is already calling on his connections from his time as a scout at Arsenal, with Nigel Winterburn set to come in to speak to the players.
Smith, 43, added: “Nigel’s a friend. He came out to see me a couple of times in America and it was a nice new voice and a nice new angle for the players now and then.
“Hopefully he won’t be the only one who is able to come in and offer the guys a different perspective.”
County boss Martin Allen had called the contest a ‘million pound game’ with the potential for both sides to draw a Premier League giant in the next round.
But own-goal villain Stewart was left feeling worthless after his mistake put County out.
The on-loan defender said: “The lads haven’t given me any stick. It’s my fourth game for them and they know what I’m about.
“Unfortunately I scored an own-goal and I’m down on myself.”